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Not Such Strange Bedfellows After AllDonald H. Craig PhD aa Norris Health Center at the University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeePublished online: 24 Mar 2010.
To cite this article: Donald H. Craig PhD (2003) Not Such Strange Bedfellows After All, Journal of American College Health,51:6, 263-264, DOI: 10.1080/07448480309596359
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JOURNAL OF AMERICAN COLLEGE HEALTH, VOL. 51, NO. 6
Not Such Strange Bedfellows After All
Donald H. Craig, PhD
s a naive but eager young student affairs profes- sional (not yet working in college health), I was A always anxious to pick up gems of wisdom from
my more seasoned colleagues who had been around the block a few times. I learned that most of them loved their work, especially the interaction with students. and felt that the pluses far outnumbered the minuses. Very quickly, how- ever, a shared frustration became obvious: scudent affairs professionals felt that they were given back seat, second- class status behind faculty. Today, when somewhat reluc- tantly, I count myself among the senior members of our pro- fession, I do not believe that perception has changed.
Insofar as the primary role of the university is to teach students and insofar as that teaching role is assigned to the faculty, it is logical to conclude that functions like ours that support that primary role are secondary. However, to take the position that faculty, in general, dont care about our work is, in my opinion, an oversimplified and inaccurate generalization. Furthermore, and more damaging, it too eas- ily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We begin to behave like second-class citizens, assuming that partnerships and collaborative efforts with academic affairs associates are not a prospect. We do our thing, they do theirs. The we- they mentality is counterproductive and often results in students being the real losers.
During the past 2 academic years, I was fortunate to be a partner with faculty colleagues on 2 projects that challenged these stereotypical notions that we in student affairs have long embraced. The first was a campuswide initiative to col- lect and disseminate data dealing with student health status and related behaviors and the implications for student reten- tion. The Ott, Haertlein, and Craig article in this issue
Donald H. Craig is Director of the Norris Health Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
describes that initiative and some joint programming efforts that emerged from it. It is important to note that this was a research-based effort and that the key players were student affairs staff, faculty members, and students. The second was a major initiative launched by our chancellor when she established a universitywide commission to focus on the student experience.
Half of the commission members were students and the other half faculty members and staff. The objective was to gather data and make recommendations to the chancellor and the university community on how to improve our stu- dents learning experiences. It was no accident, I am certain, that the chancellor appointed the chief academic officer and the chief student-affairs officer as co-leaders for this effort. It makes sense that if you want to make things better for stu- dents, you pass the leadership charge to academic affairs and student affairs as equal partners, equally accountable.
0th of these major initiatives combined the assess- B menthesearch skills of the faculty with the networking and programming skills of the student-affairs professionals to produce an outcome that, it was hoped, would increase campus awareness of factors that enhance and impede stu- dent success. During the course of the year, I learned a lot about the prospect for productive and collaborative rela- tionships between faculty and student affairs staff, includ- ing the following:
1. The traditional tension and even estrangement between the academic and student affairs sectors of the university are mostly about differing expectations and rewards, not about arrogance or feelings of superiority.
2. Faculty expectations and rewards are inextricably tied to promotion and tenure. Faculty are rewarded for advancing the teaching and research agendas within their discipline. Scholarly activity that contributes to the teaching and research agenda is, without question, the number 1 priority.
This is especially true for junior faculty, who are struggling to beat a tenure clock that is rapidly winding down. Publish or perish rules the day. Consequently, activities that are seen as contributing little or nothing to the teachinghesearch agenda receive secondary attention, at best.
3. The reward structures for faculty and student affairs staff are very different. Student affairs staff are encouraged to be generalists and to pursue collaborative, interdiscipli- nary initiatives. Faculty, on the other hand, are rewarded (ie, promoted and tenured) for largely independent, discipline- based, scholarly work. Faculty are generally not rewarded for engaging in or contributing to the broad student-affairs agenda of service to students. For example, being a well- informed, readily accessible academic advisor is a laudable quality and one that can benefit students greatly, but often does not count for much in the criteria for promotion and tenure.
I was recently invited to conduct a stress management workshop for a faculty mentoring organization on our cam- pus. As each member introduced himself or herself, the per- vasive sentiment expressed was that the publish-or-perish mandate, combined with teaching and committee assign- ments, left no time or energy for other involvements, often including personal and family nurturing. These faculty members echoed the regret that they knew little about the university beyond their rather narrow, departmental focus. One significant by-product of that feeling of isolation was that these faculty claimed little or no knowledge about the array of support service programs provided for students. It was not that they were not interested or did not care. They simply did not know enough even to be disinterested. It was not part of their reward structure.
4. Within the 2 initiatives I mentioned here, the shared need for data-specifically behavioral data describing our students-has provided the catalyst for collaboration between student affairs and our faculty colleagues. In the first instance, as reported in Ott and associates article, we had lots of questions about our students alcohol and drug use. We were familiar with the national CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey (CORE) data and the Wechsler2 studies on high-risk drinking, but we had no quantitative information specific to our campus-only a variety of hunches. Not good enough. We decided to use the CORE instruments to con- duct a stratified, randomized survey of our students and our faculty.
e then decided that we would seek more general W health status and behavior data through a similar administration of American College Health Associations (ACHAs) National College Health Assessment (NCHA).3 With joint funding support from several student affairs departments and a campuswide health promotion initiative,
we were able to launch a comprehensive, high-profile data collection and dissemination effort.
The bottom line, as reported in the earlier article, was that the campus community heard a wake-up call on the signifi- cant impact of health status, student retention, and success. Similarly, in the second initiative cited above, the chancel- lor made it clear in her charge to the commission that it was to provide her with solid, research-grounded recommenda- tions to enhance the student learning experience.
Once again, the need for and access to data became the cat- alyst for collaboration between student affairs and faculty colleagues. The often-divergent reward systems converged. The jury is still out, but I hope that students will be the ulti- mate beneficiaries.
Some concluding comments:
1 . It is time to bury the worn-out, stereotypical notions of the chasm between academic affairs and student affairs- wasted energy, self-pity.
2. Let us, instead, actively seek out opportunities for col- laboration that use our respective skills. The chances are that those partnerships, if successful, will accrue to the ben- efit of students.
3. Joint research-based initiatives provide an excellent means to combine the best skills and resources of faculty members and student-affairs staff.
4. Student health issues provide fertile ground for such research-based, collaborative initiatives.
Standard 2 of the ACHA Standards of Practice f o r Health Promotion in Higher Education states that Effec- tive practice of health promotion in higher education demonstrates integration with and commitment to the mis- sion of the institution . . . . Health promotion practitioners . . . establish relationships with academic departments through teaching, research, and service by being involved in collaborative projects.
NOTE For comments or further information, please address correspon-
dence to: Donald H. Craig, PhD, Director, Norris Health Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, PO Box 41 3 Milwaukee, WI 53201 -0786 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
REFERENCES 1.Standards of Practice for Health Promotion in Higher Edu-
cation. Baltimore, MD: American College Health Association; 20015.
2.Wechsler H, Lee J , Juo M, Seibring M, Nelson TF, Lee H. Trends in college binge drinking during a period of increased pre- vention efforts: Results from 4 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys: 1993-2001. J Am Coll Health,
3. National College Health Survey (NCHS). Baltimore, MD: 50( 3203-2 17.
American College Health Association; Fall, 2000.
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